InTents June/July 2021 - 9

was " stuck by the bouncy houses " with
little foot trafic. " But all it takes is one, " he
says. " And I happened to have the fortune
of having Juan [Munoz] from Marquee
Events wander into my tiny little booth. I
told him about slide-in tops and his eyes
lit up like a kid in a candy store. "
Sutherland left the show with a major
order from Marquee Event Group and an
advocate in Munoz.
" We went from being 80 percent
awnings back in the early days to 80
percent tents, " Sutherland says. " Each
division has grown, but because the tent
market isn't just local, it's a bigger pond
to play in. "
Workforce agility
With about 40 full-time employees
(including his son and a nephew) plus
independent contractors, Sutherland
emphasizes recognition, respect and
compensation to help retain those
employees who are willing to get the job
done. Most new employees ind their
way to Olympic Tent and Tacoma Tent
& Awning via employee referrals, family,
friends and word of mouth.
" I am very proud of creating a sustainable,
enjoyable work environment for
the next generation by adapting philosophies
and processes that lead employees
to frequently say, 'This is the best place I
have ever worked.' "
Sutherland extends a similar commitment
to clients and vendors. " I love risks
and rewards, problem solving, creative
engineering and providing a family work
environment, " he says. " The cherry on top
is when we get to be the hero, saving the
client with amazing customer service. "
New markets
And those unprecedented supply and
demand challenges of 2020? Sutherland
overcame them through creative resourcing
that beneitted both his new customers
and his long-term tent rental clients.
" We got to the point where we had
so many desperate clients, particularly
on the East Coast in late July and early
August, that were trying to open the private
schools. The demand was so overwhelming
that eventually there was no
inventory left, particularly no tubing, "
he says. " I reached out to some of my
[tent rental] clients, asking if I could buy
back tubing that I could replace later
when my supply chain got straightened
out. And because they were shut down
and had no revenue, I found a number
of takers. "
Before the pandemic, one of the biggest
trends in the tent industry was
an increased focus on safety-concrete
ballasts over water barrels and
sandbags; engineered tents, like those
Olympic Tent manufactures, over nonengineered
ones. But many businesses
in the pandemic tent market can't afford
engineered tents, and some jurisdictions
are softening on code compliance to help
support struggling small businesses.
Sutherland notes some concerns in
the industry that inexpensive, poorly
installed tents could fail, resulting in
excessive code enforcement in the
future, and that, when the pandemic
winds down, a lot of used tents will
lood the market. But those concerns
are offset by excitement for the new
markets that have opened up as tents
are used to increase capacity and make
social distancing more tolerable-and
even enjoyable.
" One client stated, 'Be ready. Country
clubs are wanting tents like never before.
The members just love being in tents.' "
Jill C. Laff erty is senior editor of Specialty
Fabrics Review and a past senior editor of
InTents magazine.
www.InTentsMag.com 7
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